Thursday, December 27, 2012

The #1 Reason Leadership Development Fails

From Mike Myatt, Contributor

Over the years, I’ve observed just about every type of leadership development program on the planet. And the sad thing is, most of them don’t even come close to accomplishing what they were designed to do – build better leaders. In today’s column I’ll share the #1 reason leadership development programs fail, and give you 20 things to focus on to ensure yours doesn’t become another casualty.

According to the American Society of Training and Development, U.S. businesses spend more than $170 Billion dollars on leadership-based curriculum, with the majority of those dollars being spent on “Leadership Training.” Here’s the thing – when it comes to leadership, the training industry has been broken for years. You don’t train leaders you develop them – a subtle yet important distinction lost on many. Leadership training is alive and well, but it should have died long, long ago.

This may be heresy to some – but training is indeed the #1 reason leadership development fails. While training is often accepted as productive, it rarely is. The terms training and development have somehow become synonymous when they are clearly not. This is more than an argument based on semantics – it’s painfully real. I’ll likely take some heat over my allegations against the training industry’s negative impact on the development of leaders, and while this column works off some broad generalizations, in my experience having worked with literally thousands of leaders, they are largely true.

An Overview of The Problem

My problem with training is it presumes the need for indoctrination on systems, processes and techniques. Moreover, training assumes that said systems, processes and techniques are the right way to do things. When a trainer refers to something as “best practices” you can with great certitude rest assured that’s not the case. Training focuses on best practices, while development focuses on next practices. Training is often a rote, one directional, one dimensional, one size fits all, authoritarian process that imposes static, outdated information on people. The majority of training takes place within a monologue (lecture/presentation) rather than a dialog. Perhaps worst of all, training usually occurs within a vacuum driven by past experience, not by future needs.

The Solution

The solution to the leadership training problem is to scrap it in favor of development. Don’t train leaders, coach them, mentor them, disciple them, and develop them, but please don’t attempt to train them. Where training attempts to standardize by blending to a norm and acclimating to the status quo, development strives to call out the unique and differentiate by shattering the status quo. Training is something leaders dread and will try and avoid, whereas they will embrace and look forward to development. Development is nuanced, contextual, collaborative, fluid, and above all else, actionable.

The following 20 items point out some of the main differences between training and development:

1. Training blends to a norm – Development occurs beyond the norm.
2. Training focuses on technique/content/curriculum – Development focuses on people.
3. Training tests patience – Development tests courage.
4. Training focuses on the present – Development focuses on the future.
5. Training adheres to standards – Development focuses on maximizing potential.
6. Training is transactional – Development is transformational.
7. Training focuses on maintenance – Development focuses on growth.
8. Training focuses on the role – Development focuses on the person.
9. Training indoctrinates – Development educates.
10. Training maintains status quo – Development catalyzes innovation.
11. Training stifles culture – Development enriches culture.
12. Training encourages compliance – Development emphasizes performance.
13. Training focuses on efficiency – Development focuses on effectiveness.
14. Training focuses on problems  - Development focuses on solutions.
15. Training focuses on reporting lines – Development expands influence.
16. Training places people in a box – Development frees them from the box.
17. Training is mechanical – Development is intellectual.
18. Training focuses on the knowns – Development explores the unknowns.
19. Training places people in a comfort zone – Development moves people beyond their comfort zones.
20. Training is finite – Development is infinite.

If what you desire is a robotic, static thinker – train them. If you’re seeking innovative, critical thinkers – develop them. I have always said it is impossible to have an enterprise which is growing and evolving if leadership is not.Thoughts? Please leave your comment for a discussion.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Reach Beyond Yourself

One cannot develop others in an area he isn’t developing himself. To that end, I have always included a variety of publications and newsletters in my reading cycle that strengthen my understanding of the most significant matters currently driving the course of our nation.

Not the latest trends, and not the messages from mainstream media, but rather the core issues in play, the questions they raise, and the foundational principles being applied (or not) in their solutions. I also enjoy learning from the perspectives of other leaders concerned about the same.

I have always had a keen interest in the history of our nation, and enjoy learning about economic and financial principles. The more I study the two, the more I learn how finances drive freedoms, from our “personal economies” to our national financial systems. This past election, the economy was a core issue, yet our viewpoints on the economic issues showed amazing diversity.

Many viewed the issues from a very personal perspective. Others put aside a concern for personal gain in favor of national strength. Some had short term views, and others looked far into the future. Almost suddenly thereafter, the focus became a pending “cliff” only a couple of months away.

I encourage you to…
  • better understand the issues at hand, learn all you can about them and view them through a lens of sound principles beyond the sound-bites being discussed
  • understand what drives our economy, what drives our freedom as a nation and learn how they are interrelated
  • gain a better understanding of free enterprise and entrepreneurialism, and how integral they are to where our country is headed

But also rise above it. Regardless of the short-term actions taken by the national leaders in the coming weeks, step back and see how little these decisions impact you. Or, perhaps, don’t let them.

In the article below, the Centurion Advisory group adds to their end-of-year outlook a great perspective on inward concern versus outward focus, and the importance of taking actions in both. Beyond the education it provides, and the guidance to take care of things “at home”, I hope this inspires you to also take the opportunity to reach beyond the noise, and reach beyond yourself, to make a difference in the lives of others.

FROM: Centurion Advisory Group Newsletter, 12/4/2012

Domestic equity markets have followed a very traditional pattern this year. They were up through April, accomplished almost nothing through the end of October, and were up a bit in a volatile November. This pattern generally yields a solid December, but I'm no fortune teller, so we will know for certain the evening of December 31st.

Most investors have made money this year, whether they've invested in stocks or bonds, and regardless of where in the world they have invested. Again, this confirms a very traditional pattern, described by some as the "Wall of Worry". When many are fearful of investing, or concerned that the market will take a plunge, the market can do well. An added complication is that for many of us, the fall of 2008 and spring of 2009 don't seem that far away, and none of us are excited about a repeat. This "Wall of Worry" isn't a perfect pattern, though the general correlation makes for a fascinating study in human behavior.

At the moment, there are plenty of macro issues to worry about, for those who choose to burn through energy worrying about things. Our fearless leaders in DC have gone almost four years without a budget, and they are still wrangling over tax details to avoid what has been called a "fiscal cliff". The U.S., and many other countries, is absolutely covered up with debt, and there is no politician living that is willing to stand in, and help resolve these long term issues. Some wonder what happens to the viability of the U.S. if the U.S. dollar is no longer the world's reserve currency. The Middle East continues to be a milieu of tribal warfare.

If it helps any, let me remind us that there have always been wars, and rumors of wars. Over the last 100 years, there have been two world wars, and almost too many other conflicts to reference. There have been currency implosions, destruction of people groups, tribes, and rainforests, terrorist attacks on the U.S and many other countries, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, and hosts of other natural disasters, and on, and on.

In spite of this, and sometimes because of it, "here in Topeka", the screen door needs to be fixed, diapers need to be changed, and meals need to be prepared. Life for most will go on, and these "most" will continue to pay their light bill (Warren Buffett figured this out a long time ago), buy groceries for the family, tennis shoes for the kids, and gas for the car. The well run companies that offer these products and services will continue to be profitable, hire new employees, and expand. As these companies see similar opportunities around the globe, they will expand into enterprises with a global footprint.

So, what does all this mean, and how do you take action at the moment? Let me suggest a dual focus, one inward looking, and one outward looking.

First, know that your personal economy isn't directly related to the overall economy. Most of you reading this have developed some level of skill or expertise that allows you enough income to pay your bills. Provided you have food, clothes, and shelter, the rest of your personal economy is a function of one thing - discipline. Our highest and best recommendation is to spend lightly, save diligently, invest wisely and with counsel, and stay far away from debt. These habits and disciplines, exercised consistently across decades, will yield magnificent results. There is no better place to be financially than debt free, profitable, and cash flow positive, and on this issue, I speak from experience.

Now, what about outward looking? About 45% of voters were pleased with the recent elections, and 45% were displeased, with 10%, and growing, fairly agnostic and cynical about the whole thing. And yet, political outcomes, regardless of where we each fall on the spectrum, are white noise compared to other, larger, issues.

For decades, our country has been the city on a hill, the golden land, which offered opportunity to all. From around the world, immigrants came, seeking a life which was better than the one they left behind. For more than two hundred years, we have stories of those from meager beginnings, from all countries around the globe, finding a better life for themselves and their families in the U.S.

A study of these stories reveals a commitment to work, to give, to share, and to help others. A few of the names are Andrew Carnegie, who built many of the libraries in this country, Nathan Hale, who was saddened that he had only one life to give, and Patrick Henry, whose oratory helped inspire a young nation to freedom.

Others include Abe Lincoln, who was seen as inept, yet governed during one of our country's most difficult moments, George Washington Carver, who applied his God given talents in spite of what many would call built in disadvantages, Teddy Roosevelt, who challenged us with his "man in the arena" speech, Ben Carson, raised by a single mother, yet one of our premier physicians, Shahid Khan, new owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who came here with little, and Churchill (I know he's a Brit), who through force of will saw a weak England to victory against the Nazi war machine.

Here's the question. What will we choose? Will we choose only to feather our own nest, to hide behind security gates and locked doors, to move only within circles of folks like us? Or, will we choose to reach out? Can we, by example, show the world, even if that world is simply our neighborhood, how to live? Will we intentionally look beyond the belief system, the orientation, the skin color, the accent, the appearance, to hear the story, to offer a word of encouragement, to find a way to help, to be a friend?

Will we bind up the brokenhearted, loose the chains of injustice, help set the captives free? Will we share our food with the hungry, offer shelter to the homeless, and clothes for the naked? Will we choose to restore those broken relationships of our own flesh and blood? Will we choose to offer words of kindness and encouragement, instead of criticism, complaint, and condemnation?

If we will, then we will live in a supernatural light, and will find healing instead of brokenness. We will be given physical strength, and our lives will be as a well-watered garden. We will be called a repairer of broken walls, and a restorer of streets with dwellings.